The Houston Texans: three takeaways from Wild Card Weekend

Yesterday’s intriguing battle between two third-string quarterbacks ended in the Houston Texans favor. For the second consecutive week, Brock Osweiler looked good (that’s not a typo) en route to the Texans third playoff victory in the history of the franchise.

What can we, as Texans fans, walk away with from this victory?

Unfortunately, it’s not as bad as we think it is.

Yes, the Texans play in the worst division in the NFL. It is historically bad, and the Texans offense is historically poor in comparison to other NFL playoff teams. Brock was terrible for 16 weeks and Lamar Miller spent a lot of time off the field.

But the Texans opened their bank roll to improve the offense enough to win a playoff game… and that’s exactly what they did. A lot of fans have been down on Miller this year, but he still finished tenth in the NFL in rushing. Considering this was his first real season as a workhorse — and that the Texans offensive line is horrid — Miller had a fine season. This line simply doesn’t open enough holes, so yes, Miller will have a lot of carries that don’t go very far.

Brock? Brock still isn’t good, but what he has shown since the second half of the Tennessee Titans game is that paired with the Texans No. 1 defense he is good enough. What was his best part of yesterday? 168 yards passing? Eh, nothing special there. His two touchdowns, one through the air, and one to Nuk? Eh, $17-million, I would hope for two touchdowns.

No, what Osweiler did was play smart football while showing heart. Brock hasn’t done either all season.

Osweiler had two opportunities this season to show his heart, and he failed miserably both times. The first, in New Englad against a third-string quarterback, he had a chance to prove the skeptics wrong in prime time against a team that many thought he beat the season prior behind a little luck and the Broncos solid defense. The second, again in prime time, was his return to Denver, to square off against a general manager that mocked him and a defense that said they wanted to kill him. Both were arguably his worst two performances of the season.

This weekend, Brock had possibly his last chance to prove he could win on the big stage… and he did. Throw away the stats because O’Brien went uber conservative in the second half and didn’t allow Os to throw (which I’m ok with). Brock had two big runs, one for a first down and one for a touchdown that showed his grittiness. And he stepped up and didn’t commit a turnover. He played his smartest football of the season and Trent Dilfer proved that’s all it takes when you have a defense as good as the Texans.

This defense isn’t even as good as it will be.

A lot has been made about how several teams in the postseason have to play without their best player, or at least one of their most important. Ryan Tannehill is down. Obviously it was all David Carr this, David Carr that yesterday. People will say Aaron Rodgers season is better considering his entire running game has been depleted by injury.

What about the NFL’s No. 1 defense? What about the defense that lost the BEST defensive player in the NFL (if you want to argue it, J.J. will pull out the three Defensive Player of the Year trophies he’s won in the past four years). What about the fact that the defense lost Kevin Johnson, who showed so much promise in his rookie season he supplanted Kareem Jackson? What about the multi-week absence of one of the league’s most underrated linebackers in John Simon?

Yes sir, this defense is just touching the surface. Names like D.J. Reader and a much improved secondary with the likes of Corey Moore and A.J. Bouye coming into their own make this defense’s best days ahead of them… and that’s a scary thought.

OB can coach.

Does he have his flaws? Sure he does. He went very conservative maybe too early yesterday, but it worked. He makes questionable play calls on third downs, but in the end it is from a deeper knowledge of his personnel and putting them in the safest position as not to sacrifice field position.

Here’s the bottom line. The Texans offensive line has gone from elite, Pro-Bowl status to abysmal in each of his three years at the helms, and it is to no fault of his own. Rick Smith has turned a blind eye, allowing a lot of good lineman to walk away, with insufficient replacements coming in the draft and free agency.

In return, the team has gotten OB NOTHING to work with at the most important position on the field. I don’t care how bad the AFC South is. I don’t care how bad the Texans look offensively. What Bill O’Brien has done with the quarterbacks he has had in three years as a head coach is darn good coaching.

If the AFC South is so bad, should a team manned by Brian Hoyer be in dead last? Ryan Fitzgerald? Brock Osweiler? Brandon Weeden?!?!? He has made winners with all of them — and a few others — and has proven that he can flat out coach. Would he be even better with better pieces? Sure. But we as Texans fans know that no matter what, OB will dominate the AFC South and that will at least make them playoff contenders each and every season.

OB would have lasted 30 minutes on the open market. And there was nothing better to replace him with. Kyle Shanahan is the most attractive offensive mind out there and he had his chance. He could have stayed behind and molded his No. 1 Texans offense into a head coaching job, groomed by his mentor in Gary Kubiak. Instead, he went to be with Daddy in Washington, which proved smart… for one season and a long road back to the top after that.

Romeo will keep the Texans in contention. The rest of the pieces are in place. Give OB an O-line and let him do his thing.

 

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